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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Deja vu: Campus shooting at Virginia Tech

Monday morning comes and at least 30 faculty staff and students are shot dead on the campus of Virginia Tech. Many more are injured. At this point, nobody knows the real reason behind the killings. The apparent lone gunman committed suicide in the ensuing chaos. Breaking news of the Virginia Tech campus shootings here.

While almost everyone is asking why, I can still recall what happened back in the fall of 1996. Yes, I've been there, done that, seen it all. I was a freshman in Purdue and I was attending Econ 251 class at that precise time. One of our classmates came into class and just casually said, "Dude! Did you guys hear someone just got his brains blasted out? The cops are all over Wiley Hall now!" Then someone else added that there was a hostage situation as well.

Late 1996. Handphones were still a luxury and there weren't many readily-available computers to check the internet. SMS and Wi-fi hotspots? Unheard of. The news that came to us in that classroom was either by word-of-mouth or by the presence of police helicopters hovering above campus. Should we hide in class? Should we even walk out of the building? No one gave instructions. All we knew was that the shooting was 'isolated'. If anything else happened, it'd probably just be plain bad luck.

We later found out - albeit briefly - that a Liberal Arts freshman Jarrod Eskew was warned by his floor counselor Jay Severson for having some marijuana in his possession. I guess Jarrod got pissed, so he went home and got his 12-gauge shotgun. While under the influence of drugs, Jarrod approached Severson and blew his head off. (Actually I don't even know if his head got blown off... but you get the messy picture - someone gets blasted by a 12-gauge shotgun isn't gonna be a pretty sight). Then Jarrod hid in his room. Someone said he took with him a hostage. The cops and FBI surround Wiley Hall. Tarkington Hall was also shut off. The drama ended when the SWAT team stormed into Jarrod's room, only to find him alone... dead. He shot himself.

Here's a fellow Boilermaker's account on what happened in October 1996.

And some news from the Exponent here.

There was talk everywhere. I remember calling my family in Singapore to tell them everything's fine. Basically everything went back to normal the next day except for those who were directly affected by the shootings - residents of Wiley in particular.

Mind you, those were the days before 9/11 so I suppose things were still kinda laid back. Even so, the police at Virginia Tech should have learned from past events such as the Purdue one and the few others in between: Columbine, etc.

My deepest sympathies to all affected in VT.

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